Bringing Balance to the Local Community
By coming together with other stakeholders hurt by the pandemic, one university and its college of business brought help and hope to its community.
Photo by iStock/timsa
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted much of everyday life and has left business owners, citizens, students, faculty, and communities struggling to cope, refocus, and move forward. In a new normal characterized by change, it is imperative that business schools connect with their communities to create balance and well-being for all.
The Community Response
The small rural community of Milledgeville in Georgia’s Baldwin County, like so many others, found itself reeling financially from mandated business closures and a student exodus prompted by universities’ mass transition to online learning. In May of 2020, leaders from the city, county, chamber of commerce, and universities joined together to create the Resiliency & Recovery Task Force. Its aim was to bolster economic sustainability and growth as the community rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Local University Steps Up
As one of the leaders and local partners, Georgia College & State University leveraged our virtual GC United platform to host events, workshops, leadership series, and more, free of charge to members of the local community.
According to an AACSB quick-take survey on COVID-19 impacts, since the early days of the pandemic business schools aided their communities by sharing their expertise and time, and Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business was no exception.
As thought leaders and innovators within the local business community, our Bunting College of Business faculty, leadership board members, and alumni knew they could leverage their expertise to provide meaningful societal impact and support the local community. Nineteen of our college stakeholders offered workshops for the Resiliency & Recovery Task Force on topics such as navigating new banking regulations and associated opportunities, analysis of housing market implications, strategic marketing for small businesses, legal and human capital strategies, tax implications for small businesses, entrepreneurship in times of crisis, student and broader consumer purchasing trends during a pandemic, and crisis leadership. For example:
- In Leadership Through Crisis, a leadership board and foundation trustee used his experience as an entrepreneur and business owner to share critical thoughts and tools to help other business owners navigate periods of change.
- In Impacts on Student Purchasing Behaviors, three marketing faculty hosted a focus group with Georgia College students to provide insight into how their behaviors have changed since the start of the pandemic, and how the local economy can shift to meet their needs.
- In Doing Business During COVID-19, management faculty collaborated with business law faculty and a colleague from the University of Georgia to provide local businesses with an understanding of HR and legal considerations during the pandemic.
In addition to virtual sessions, we partnered with the Georgia College Alumni Office to create a digital network called Bobcats for Business, where alumni entrepreneurs from Georgia College can list their business services, and alums can now choose specifically to do business with fellow bobcats. Through social media, we spotlight different businesses and business owners to showcase our alumni and their accomplishments. The spotlights are already providing opportunities for Georgia College entrepreneurs to expand their networks.
By covering a wide array of topics impacting businesses and developing new networks during these unprecedented times, we have leaned into the wants and needs of our community partners. The community knows that Georgia College is here to support them in their times of need and will provide them aid. Responses to the college’s efforts have been overwhelmingly positive, with the videos receiving nearly 2,500 views to date.
Angie Martin, president and CEO of the local chamber of commerce, has praised the Bunting College of Business and other community leaders for creating content based on their areas of expertise, thus meeting the needs of the community and helping business owners in their rebounds and recoveries. She said local business owners were clear about their concerns, needs, and wants, and the educational community has truly worked together to provide necessary support and have an encouraging impact on the community. The faculty and staff in the Bunting College of Business are committed to continuing these efforts as long as the need exists.
Bringing Balance to the Future
The Bunting College of Business accepted this pandemic as a call to action and as an obligation to serve. Business schools are uniquely positioned to improve the communities around them. Faculty expertise paired with various volunteer boards and alumni networks in numerous industries can provide small business owners with information, workshops, and resources that they would either not know how to acquire or may not be able to afford, especially during times of hardship. By collaborating with local officials, business leaders, and chambers of commerce, business schools can identify where and how their communities are struggling and tailor solutions for their specific needs.
In addition to providing service to their communities, business schools have the opportunity to provide transformative experiences for their students by allowing them to participate, provide perspective, and help the communities they call home.
As the world continues to shift into a new normal, business schools can leverage their knowledge and skills to help create balance and well-being for their communities as they rebound and rebuild, creating long-lasting societal impact for years to come.
|Micheal Stratton is a professor of management and dean of the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville. He is also president of the Management and Organizational Behavior Teaching Society (MOBTS).|
Kari Brown is the coordinator of business outreach for the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.